Fighting Ships of the U.S. Navy 1883-2019 - Volume Four, Part One: Torpedo Boats and Destroyers
Venner Milewski Jr. has undertaken the monumental task in cataloging each and every US Navy vessel commissioned since 1883, the year congressional funding was approved for America’s first four steel warships. His encyclopedic work is titled Fighting Ships of the U.S. Navy 1883-2019. Milewski Jr.’s compilation provides the physical details of each ship, its specifications, propulsion, armament, etc. as well as the important milestones of its service life. Most of the articles include at least one, and sometimes as many as four high quality photographs of the vessel described. To date, four multi-part volumes have been published, with each part focused on a specific time period. Volume One addressed aircraft carriers while Volume Two covered battleships and New Navy monitors. Volume Three depicts cruisers and command ships.
The latest portion of the work, Volume Four, documents the development of USN torpedo boats and destroyers. This particular book, Part One of the volume, covers the vessels built from 1883 through the end of WWI (1918). Most of the naval history written for this period dwells on the political and technological forces that created larger and larger battleships. This book is important because it captures the refinement of the battleship’s most feared nemesis during this time period, the torpedo boat. Self-propelled torpedoes became a reality shortly after the end of the US Civil War (1865). Speedy boats that could fire these dangerous torpedoes close to a hulking warship were soon being constructed. The counters to this torpedo boat threat included additional armor belting around the battleships’ hulls as well as the creation of a new type of ship, the destroyer, whose purpose was to shield the mighty capital ships from the nimble torpedo boats. Faster and deadlier torpedo boats led to faster and more heavily armed destroyers. Torpedo Boats and Destroyers lavishly illustrates this relentless arms race and the many innovations that took place in parallel to the development of the battleship. 19 classes of torpedo boats (36 individual boats) and 16 classes of destroyers (185 individual vessels) are discussed in this book.
Torpedo Boats and Destroyers, a hardcover book, is filled with two hundred black & white photographs. For those interested in ships of the New Steel Navy and the Navy’s transition from wood to steel this book fills important gaps. Moreover, this book contains documentation and pictures of many warships that saw action in the Spanish American War (1898) and WWI (1914-1918). Of particular interest are its pictures of various camouflage schemes, primarily from vessels that served during WWI, but also some of the destroyers that later saw service in WWII. In the final sections of the book, Milewski Jr. describes six specific patterns and provides official USN drawings which show how they were applied to several classes of destroyers. In addition, his excellent bibliography aids the reader’s future research. Perhaps the only enhancement to the book would be documentation of the torpedo weaponry these ships were designed to use and defend against.
Venner Milewski Jr.’s Fighting Ships of the U.S. Navy 1883-2019 (Vol. 1, Part 4) Torpedo Boats and Destroyers is an excellent reference for anyone interested in this important period of naval development. This work, with its thorough documentation, excellent organization, and wonderful photographs, is highly recommended. This book will both inspire and aid you in building models of these fascinating ships.
Special thanks go to Casemate Publishers for providing this book for review.